Academics debate the positive and negative consequences of hosting sports mega-events, and although there is a general recognition that doing so cannot be a panacea for solving other social issues, who wins and who loses tends to be the same. This article considers why mega-events are not more regularly resisted given the routinization of harm to local populations that they tend to invoke. It develops ideas derived from the late sociologist and criminologist Stanley Cohen concerning the relationships between, and the politics of, denial and acknowledgement, with specific attention to the role of academics, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. The article illustrates the difficulties in exposing, contesting and transforming these human rights abuses, but suggests that there are grounds for optimism as new strategies for communicating human rights abuses in connection with sports mega-events are developed.
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